Last month, as Israel bombed the besieged Gaza Strip for the fourth time in 12 years, the United States approved a $ 735 million arms sale to Israel. The approval was criticized by Congressional lawmakers and several Democrats presented resolutions to block the sale of Boeing precision-guided missiles.
Israel’s 11-day military campaign killed at least 253 people, including 66 children, in Gaza. At least 12 people have been killed in Israel by rockets fired by Palestinian armed groups in Gaza. He The UN Human Rights Council has set up a group investigate both sides for possible war crimes and the human rights group Amnesty International has renewed its named to stop arms sales in the United States to Israel.
Gaza has been described as the largest open-air prison in the world. Since 2006, Israel has imposed a land, sea and air blockade on its 2.1 million inhabitants. Israeli forces continue to militarily occupy East Jerusalem and the West Bank where they have built hundreds of illegal settlements.
Maintaining Israel’s regional military hegemony is a key element of U.S. policy in the Middle East. This has been achieved thanks to the interaction of US funding and the growing Israeli arms industry.
This is what you need to know about Israel’s military and armaments industry.
How much does Israel spend on its military?
Israel operates a large military apparatus where military service is mandatory for citizens over 18 years of age. In 2020, the country spent $ 22 billion on its military, according to a database compiled by SIPRI, a research institute focused on conflict and armaments. Israel spent about $ 2,508 per capita and spent 12% of total government spending on defense.
Visualized, the combination of these metrics shows what part of Israel’s lowest arms spending relates to some of the world’s largest military, including the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.
Israel is a global supplier of advanced weapons, including drones, missiles, radar technology and other weapons systems. In 2020, it was the 12th largest arms supplier with more than $ 345 million in arms sales to 16 countries, according to the SIPRI database.
How much does the US spend on the Israeli army?
The United States is by far the largest provider of military aid to Israel, providing the country with a total of $ 3.8 billion by 2020 as part of a record $ 38 billion deal over a ten-year period signed. under former U.S. President Barack Obama in 2016. Israel also received significant U.S. financial aid along with military supplies. As Israel has become richer, economic aid, which began in 1951, has been eliminated and almost eliminated in 2007.
The United States imposes conditions on how aid can be used, especially military aid. For example, the Leahy Act prohibits the export of U.S. defense items to military units complicit in human rights abuses. However, no Israeli unit has been penalized under this law. Similarly, American economic aid to Israeli institutions, such as universities, has historically been used on Israel’s pre-1967 borders. This condition was waived under the Trump administration.
In comparison, the U.S. allocated $ 19 million in all forms of aid to the Palestinians in 2020, according to USAID, after the Trump administration suspended most of the funding to the Palestinian Authority, as its government was pushing for the so-called “peace plan” that the Palestinians denounced. as unilateral.
Since the PA was established in 1994, the United States has provided it $ 5 billion in total aid. Unlike aid to Israel, Palestinian aid has many conditions. For example, under the file Taylor’s law of force, financial aid can be cut if the Palestinian Authority makes “payments that incite terror.” The Biden administration has indicated that it will resume aid to the Palestinians, although the totals will remain a fraction of those provided to Israel.
Washington is also required, under its national laws, such as the 2014 U.S.-Israel Strategic Cooperation Act, to protect Israel’s so-called “military qualitative edge,” meaning that Israel should maintain military superiority over its regional neighbors. The law guarantees Israel’s access to advanced U.S. weapons. U.S. officials also regularly discuss regional defense sales with Israel, to ensure their ally is not at a military disadvantage.
US support for Israel began in 1948, when it declared independence, and the United States was one of the first countries to recognize Israel. Shortly afterwards, the U.S. began providing economic aid and, to a much lesser extent, military aid to the new state.
However, military aid to Israel increased greatly after the 1967 Six Day War when Israel defeated the neighboring Arab armies and began occupying the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. The deviation from military funding since 1967 has meant that it represents almost 80 percent of all aid provided by the United States.
U.S. lawmakers have long seen Israel as an ally to help protect U.S. strategic interests in the Middle East. Initially, this included the containment of Soviet influence in the region. According to the U.S. Congressional Research Service, factors for continued military support in Israel include shared strategic interests, “U.S. national support for Israel” and “a mutual commitment to democratic values.”
U.S. funding for Israel has been, and continues to be, a bipartisan affair, with Democratic and Republican administrations. For the past two decades, the U.S. has been helping the Israeli military has increased despite the Israeli military campaigns in Gaza in 2008/2009, 2012 and 2014 that have killed more than 3,500 Palestinians. About 100 Israelis have been killed during the course of the three wars.
Regarding the increase in U.S. military aid in 2003, Stephen Zunes, a policy professor at the University of San Francisco, noted that the increase “was part of an overall increase in U.S. weapons in the Middle East and U.S. military spending ”in the wake of the 2001 Al Qaeda attacks in the United States, the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan, and the invasion of Iraq.
“U.S. aid to Israel has always been primarily related to how Israel could help advance the perceived strategic goals of the United States, not on Israeli security needs,” he told Al Jazeera.
With regard to the increase in U.S. military aid in 2000, Zunes noted that the United States had agreed in the 1998 Wye River Memorandum to push aid to Israel “in exchange for [relatively minor] Israeli concessions to Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
“Since the budgets were presented the previous year, this was the first budget after that meeting, and so it was probably the result of that,” he said.
Israel is the largest recipient of total U.S. foreign military funding (FMF), a program that provides grants and loans to U.S. allies acquire “U.S. Defense, Service, and Training Teams.” Over the past two decades, 55% of all American FMFs have been dedicated to Israel, more than the rest of the world combined, according to the Security Assistance Monitor, which is part of the Center for International Policy, a think tank with its to Washington DC.
These figures do not reflect other indirect forms of military aid. For example, the U.S. military maintains a large “emergency” arms reserve in Israel. Currently valued at $ 3.4 billion, the Israeli army can use this cache in case of emergency.
South Korea has a similar agreement. These arrangements were originally designed to facilitate the rapid deployment of American troops. In practice, for Israel, they serve as an additional layer of defense and allow the Israeli army quick access to ammunition and weapons during a conflict. Unlike other FMF recipients, Israel is allowed to use FMF funds to buy from local businesses until 2028, under the latest U.S.-Israel MOU in defense.
Military imports and exports from Israel
Historically, Israel’s arms imports have far exceeded its exports. However, over the past decade, exports have begun to steadily eclipse imports, according to the SIPRI database.
According to Neve Gordon, a professor at Queen Mary University in London, Israel has used Palestine, Lebanon and Syria as a “showcase for products developed by the Israeli military-industrial complex.”
“This is extremely important for the exporting industry, as producers of weapons and surveillance systems can claim that they have been used in real combat situations and that their effectiveness has been proven,” he told Al Jazeera .
Israel imports arms exclusively from Western countries, with 83% of imports coming from the United States between 1950 and 2020. In contrast, 23% of its exports went to India and have exported everywhere. Israel controversially continued exports to the apartheid government of South Africa.
The two countries signed a secret defense agreement in 1975 to evade an international trade embargo imposed on South Africa because of its apartheid policies.
From 2015 to 2020, the main arms export markets of Israel were, as a percentage of the total, India (43%), Azerbaijan (16%), Vietnam (10%) and the USA (4 %), according to the SIPRI database. India was the largest buyer of Israeli weapons in 2020.
Relations between the two countries have flourished since Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power in 2014. Since then, an Indian diplomat has been registered advocating the use of the “Israeli model” in Indian-administered Kashmir. , referring to Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Defense groups have accused the Indian military of abuses in Kashmir, including intimidation, torture, extrajudicial killings and arbitrary detentions of Kashmiris. In 2019, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights called for a formal investigation into these allegations.
“Not a dollar”: appeal to an arms embargo
Palestinians and pro-Palestinian activists have it for a long time for an international arms embargo on Israel, arguing that military cooperation with foreign governments and companies helps Israel maintain its occupation of the Palestinian territories.
According to the Palestinian-led movement Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS), which has called for a nonviolent, people-led movement to pressure Israel to end the occupation and provide equal rights and return to the Palestinians. military force “to maintain an illegal regime of occupation, colonialism and apartheid.”
Human rights groups such as Amnesty International have called on US President Biden to reconsider the latest approval of the sale of arms to Israel amid a situation in which “human rights and international humanitarian law are violated every day. day”.
Several U.S. progressive lawmakers have also called on the Biden administration to condition U.S. aid on Israel. U.S. Congresswoman Betty McCollum introduced a bill that would ban Israel from using U.S. aid to detain Palestinian children, destroy Palestinian property, and continue to annex occupied Palestinian land.
“Not a single dollar of U.S. taxpayer funds should be used to violate the human rights of the Palestinian people living under Israeli military occupation,” he told Al Jazeera earlier last month.